Summary prepared by Fielding M. McGehee III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.
FBI Catalogue Unidentified Individuals Speaking
FBI preliminary tape identification note: One Tracs 90/ Ben 5/9/77
Date cues on tape: A tape made about the same subject was made the following day – May 10, 1977 – verifying the date on the FBI identification note.
Ben Bowers (speaks)
Gene Chaikin (speaks)
Jim Jones Jr.
Christine (likely Talley, Ben Bowers’ wife)
Jimmy Carter, president of the US
Vincent Hinds, Guyanese economist
Bible verses cited: None
(This tape was transcribed by Shannon Howard. The editors gratefully acknowledge her invaluable assistance.)
This 90-minute tape of a meeting to consider issues involving the Temple’s HAM radio quickly changes course and tone, when Ben Bowers, the Temple member who is most familiar with the radio, reveals that he wants to leave the organization, possibly for six months, but more likely permanently. From that point, Bowers does nothing but defend himself, as unidentified Temple members in attendance join Jim Jones in begging, demanding, cajoling, and threatening him to reconsider. Bowers is firm in his decision, and confirms it the next day in Tape Q 678.
The conversation starts off as a conversation about the radio. As it happens, there are genuine problems with the HAM radio, ranging from problems with the Temple’s FCC license, to locating and maintaining equipment that will work reliably once the components are shipped to Guyana. Bowers – whose name appears on the license and who has been threatened with FCC sanctions for violating HAM radio rules, mainly over the Temple’s use of the radio for business purposes – answers as many of the questions as he can, but professes to be out of his depth on some of the issues. At some point early in the conversation, someone asks if Bowers doesn’t understand what the FCC wants, or if he doesn’t want to understand, if in fact he no longer wants to be involved with the Temple at all. When Bowers acknowledges that he is ready to leave, the issues of the radio, the FCC, and spare parts ends.
The questions initially probe Bowers’ reasons, and he confesses that he has become alienated from the movement and its leaders. Although his disaffection has lasted for six months, he insists he still believes in the Temple’s work, but that he needs a break from it. The break, he later admits, could be permanent, depending upon what he learns about himself outside.
The criticisms of Bower run the gamut. One person asks him how he can abandon the cause which Peoples Temple represents, a theme which Jim Jones picks up later in the meeting. Another asks how he can live with the disappointment he is causing his friends and co-workers. Another raises the point that Bowers has been living in an apartment with two men, suggesting that his decision might be swayed by homosexual tendencies. Another points out that he has too much experience – and the accompanying responsibilities – to consider leaving.
Several are particularly confrontational on whether Bower actually can go. “Do you feel that you have the right to leave?” one man asks. “On what basis do you have the right to leave?” A woman returns to the question later in the tape, when she demands, “what right do you have to have these so-called higher intellectual pursuits, when you know you have a responsibility to other people?” Jones reinforces this theme as well: “How do you give yourself rights in a world where some people don’t even have the right to eat?”
The criticisms become increasingly disconnected from Bowers as a person. What about the black people in the Temple who trusted him and who will now feel betrayed? What about the pain he is causing Jim Jones? Doesn’t he know that, whatever his own tribulations, Jones’ are much worse? Doesn’t he also know he’ll never find another leader and good and loving as Jim Jones? Or is his problem that he is afraid of dying?
The final fear expressed by the group: how many others are going to witness his example, and decide maybe it’s all right for them to leave as well? And won’t this action embolden their enemies, the previous defectors for whom Bowers does not categorically disdain?
A similar conversation occurs on Tape Q 678, recorded the next day.
Date of transcription: 3/30/79
In connection with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s investigation into the assassination of U.S. Congressman LEO J. RYAN at Port Kaituma, Guyana, South America, on November 18, 1978, a tape recording was obtained. This tape recording was located in Jonestown, Guyana, South America, and was turned over to U.S. Officials in Guyana and subsequently transported to the United States.
On March 19, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B62-91. This tape was found to contain the following:
Sides 1 and 2 contained conversations between several individuals who were trying to pursuade [persuade] another individual from leaving the People’s Temple. It appears from the conversation that one of the individuals also trying to pursuade the individual to stay was JIM JONES.
This tape was reviewed, and nothing was contained theron [thereon] which was considered to be of evidentiary nature or beneficial to the investigation of Congressman RYAN.
Differences with FBI Summary:
The summary is accurate and meets the FBI’s purposes.
Tape originally posted February 2021